Professor Raymond Arthur was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in spring 2023. He is Professor of Law at Northumbria University, and his research explores children’s right to self-determination in justice settings in order to develop a deeper understanding of the experiences of vulnerable young people.
Raymond’s inter-disciplinary research embraces innovative social science methodologies to shape and advance the research of children’s rights and family justice in child-centric ways which empower young people by giving a voice to their experiences. He works with hard-to-reach, and previously under-researched, populations of children to co-design research projects that examine the child’s own experiences of navigating legal processes and systems. One example of this is his work leading a British Academy funded study on the experiences of young people detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. The methodology for which has been specifically designed to transform young people from subjects of research to agents of change.
Raymond is also part of an academic team involving four universities to provide research to the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services in their goal of building the only secure childcare provision in London. This involves developing knowledge exchange and impact strategies that focus on particular user groups including child protection professionals, architects, interior designers and youth justice services, as well as public engagement activities.
Why do the social sciences matter?
As a law academic who researches how the law interacts with children, and in particular with children experiencing multiple vulnerabilities and challenges, the social sciences are incredibly important in understanding the multiple and intersecting problems that can be a feature of the lives of children and their families. Social science research allows me to understand the barriers that confront children who become involved in the justice system and helps to explain how the inequalities that permeate society are also reflected in both civil and criminal child justice systems. Social science also creates the understanding needed to re-imagine a more inclusive child friendly justice system that goes beyond merely adherence to Child-Friendly Justice Guidelines, but that also embraces the need for children to being actively engaged in all decision-making about them.
What inspires you about your work?
I am most inspired by the children that I have met in the course of my research. My work involves children who are being detained, and often they have experienced a lot of adversity and disadvantage in their lives. Nevertheless, I am always inspired by their optimism, hope, aspirations and joy – despite their being in detention.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
There are many urgent issues that need to be tackled, the one I would pick as being particularly urgent is tackling the corrosive impact of poverty upon children and their families. Poverty is directly linked to so many other social problems such as crime, public health and education. By tackling the issue of child poverty so many other problems would be ameliorated. Social scientists are ideally placed to develop an understanding of how to mitigate and eliminate child poverty.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
I am honoured to join a fantastic community of world-leading scholars. I look forward to actively supporting the work of the Academy in solving the biggest challenges facing society.